From contributing film critic Andrew Gaudion
Feel that chill in the air? Noticed that the nights are getting closer and the leaves a little browner? That’s right folks, summer is over, and that means the summer movie season has come to a close. This year has seen some true turkeys and some thoroughbred brilliance, and it definitely seems a year in which studios may start thinking twice about putting $150+ million plus into big movies, as big-budget under-performers such as The Mummy, Valerian and The Dark Tower have helped make this summer the worst in a decade in terms of box-office numbers. It’s been a fun ride, trash and all, so let’s take a look back over at some of the best and some of the worst movies that have blasted onto our screens from May through to August. (Box-office numbers correct as of 18.09.17).
Wonder Woman (Released June 2nd – Worldwide box office: $817.7 million) –
May was a disappointing month for cinema, so it was such a pleasure to see Wonder Woman come out the gate in early June to impress moviegoers the world over. The first big-screen incarnation of the 70 year-old DC comics character, Wonder Woman is nonchalantly the best film of the DCEU thus far and gives the character her long overdue glory on the big screen. Director Patty Jenkins has crafted an inspiring, wholesome, big-hearted and exciting adventure that succeeds by looking back to Richard Donner’s Superman, showing that superhero movies don’t have to be all doom and gloom to be interesting. With a wholly charming Gal Gadot shining as Diana of Themyscira and Chris Pine on hand to serve up earnest charm, Wonder Woman is one of the greater successes of the summer, both in terms of box-office returns and for doing justice to a character who has long been underserved.
Baby Driver (Released June 28th – Worldwide box office: $214.1 million) –
Edgar Wright has always struggled at the box-office, and while Baby Driver’s numbers may not hit the heights of the likes of Wonder Woman, it still stands as a career best for Wright which is impressive considering the film is a $30 million original flick. And boy what a joy Wright’s sixth film is. From the very opening scene there is a unique energy that pulsates throughout Baby Driver, much thanks to its impeccably sharp editing and its toe-tapping tracks. This is a film that revels in the wonder of visual and audio techniques as we follow a young getaway driver, a demon behind the wheel who listens to music to focus, as he tries to escape a life of crime. The plot isn’t wholly original, but the means in which the tale is told feels fresh and exciting, amounting to one of the most enjoyable movie-experiences of the summer and one which has proved to be just as exciting on repeat viewings.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (Released July 5th – Worldwide box office: $861.3 million) –
Spider-Man: Homecoming is probably better than it had any right to be, being the second rebooted Spider-Man movie in the space of five years and the sixth Spider-Man movie in the space of sixteen years. Yet, the film itself turned out to be one of the more purely enjoyable blockbuster experiences of the summer, with Tom Holland’s Peter Parker proving to be the best on-screen wall-crawler yet. The film benefits immensely from having a much younger Parker than we have seen before. He’s a sophomore at high school, dealing with both the pressures of being a teenager as well as an Avengers hopeful, with the film performing a sweet balancing act between superhero action and John Hughes-esque high school comedy. It allows for a Marvel movie to have a little more personality than other MCU efforts, resulting in a sweet, exciting and genuinely very funny outing for our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.
War for the Planet of the Apes (Released July 11th – Worldwide box office: $433.7 million)
War for the Planet of the Apes currently stands as the lowest-grossing of the rebooted Planet of the Ape series, seemingly getting lost in the shuffle of the summer season. This is a damn shame, because it is a truly exceptional piece of work that caps off this highly impressive trilogy in an epicly grand fashion. Borrowing from great myth-making genres like the Western, the War flick and the Biblical epic, War is a highly emotional, breathlessly exciting and enriching exploration of the nature of man and intelligent simian beings. The motion-capture effects have never been more impressive and Andy Serkis is effortlessly mesmerising as leader of the Apes, Caesar, who goes on his deepest and most challenging journey of the trilogy. With this immensely satisfying conclusion, the rebooted Apes trilogy easily stands as one the truly great reboots in an age of cinema that is crowded with sub-par franchise movies.
Dunkirk (Released 21st July – Worldwide box office: $511 million)
One of the most purely immersive experiences of the summer and one of the finest films of the year, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk throws you into the desperation of one of the most fragile events of World War Two, as hundreds of thousands of Allied troops were left on the beaches of Dunkirk, nervously anticipating their rescue while enemy forces closed in from the mainland. The film, which focuses on three separate timelines taking in stories from the land, the sky and the sea, is a tour de force of filmmaking craft, with a stunning level of realism and taut tension amounting in a purely sensory experience that shakes you to your core. With a nerve-shredding score, majestic aerial footage, involving drama and increasingly anxious and trying situations piling up, Nolan has constructed a very sensory cinematic experience, one which demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible.
Honourable mentions: It Comes At Night, Logan Lucky and Mindhorn
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Released May 19th – Worldwide box office: $146.7 million)
May was a dismal month through and through, and while King Arthur doesn’t hold the title as worst film to come from the sunny month of May, it holds a pretty close blade. Guy Ritchie’s ‘broadswords and geezers’ approach to the Arthurian legend could have worked should the film have had enough conviction in its own approach to truly commit to the nitty and gritty. Instead we get a neutered , watered down version that’s trying to have its cake and eat it too. Not one scene follows on from the other in any coherent fashion and it all amounts to conflict that limply constructs video-game level action aimed at bludgeoning its audience, who have probably already checked out by that point. Utterly charmless and one of many franchise starters to come and splutter at the starting line this year.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (Released May 26th – Worldwide box office: $794.1 million)
The winner of worst release of May (and currently my least favourite film of the year) is the fifth instalment of the tired and bloated Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Salazar’s Revenge (or Dead Men Tell No Tales to the rest of the world). With Johnny Depp’s star fading, you can understand why he would perhaps want to return to Pirates, a franchise which may always seem like a safe bet. But it seems to be at the cost of general audiences who are delivered an under-baked, uninspired and painfully unfunny addition to a once vibrant and imaginative franchise. While one would hope that this instalment marks the sinking of the franchise, that $794 million worldwide taking may be enough to convince Disney to set sail again. On evidence of this pathetic instalment, this is a franchise best left washed up on shore to gather barnacles and think on its many, many sins.
Transformers: The Last Knight (Released June 22nd – Worldwide box office $605.4 million)
Of course the latest instalment of Michael Bay’s Hasbro toy-line franchise appears on this list. While The Last Knight certainly isn’t the worst Transformers movie in my book (that honor belongs to the morally reprehensible Age of Extinction), The Last Knight certainly feels the most tired, overloading the Transformers mythology by lazily saying they’ve been around at every major historical event in human history. Bumblebee fought the Nazis? Sure, why not! King Arthur was aided by Transformer dragons? Couldn’t hurt! Harriet Tubman was a protector of the secret history of Transformers? Seems legit! Despite how bat-shit crazy some of these ideas sound, they are all so shrugged off that they don’t register with any zest. That’s the case across this whole disjointed mess, no one seems to care too much about how we get from point A to B over the ludicrously long 154 minute runtime, with only Sir Anthony Hopkins looking like he’s having fun cashing his pay cheque. A rusty instalment, in yet another weary franchise.
The Book of Henry (Released June 23rd – Worldwide box office: $4.4 million)
Oh my, are those box-office numbers painful to look at. What a weekend it was to be met with both a fifth Transformers movie and Colin Trevorrow’s ill-fated The Book of Henry. Much derided by other critics and audiences States-side, and much of the same everywhere else, The Book of Henry will forever hold significance as the film that perhaps lost Trevorrow the Star Wars IX gig, and for very obvious reasons. Much of what makes The Book of Henry a bad film is down to the writing. The film is shot perfectly fine, scored well and features a cast of talented actors. But the content of the film itself is filled with absolutely baffling decisions. No one acts like a human being. All the characters are either too twee or too dumbfoundingly stupid to warrant empathy, and the film itself relies so much on a maudlin and ill-judged twist to hook you in that you worry for the sanity of all involved. It is never a dull watch, often inspiring laughter at points which are supposed to be sincere. An embarrassing attempt at Amblin-esque family drama which simply lacks any sense of self-awareness.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Released 4th August – Worldwide box office: $221.5 million)
It has been awhile since I’ve witnessed a film start with so much hope and optimism before descending into a retrograde, misogynistic, steaming pile of trash. With an opening which suggests a utopian future and a universe-wide culture of acceptance and tolerance, it is not long until Luc Besson steers his graphic-novel adaptation into a direction which tastes sour and loses all the sense of a progressive future-scape that the opening seemed to imply. Stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne have absolutely no chemistry thanks to a script which operates in incredibly old-fashioned dynamics that casts him as an unlikeable douche and she as a passive sidekick who is often written out of the action to make way for more Valerian ‘heroics’ (all this in spite of the fact that the comic book on which the film is based is called Valerian and Laureline, not just Valerian). While the film does often look stunning, that is not enough to shroud a script which feels woefully misjudged, written by a filmmaker who seems incredibly out of touch with the sensibilities of modern movie-going audiences.
Dishonourable mentions: The Mummy, Baywatch and Snatched